Didgeridoo for Beginners
The Didgeridoo is a wind instrument originated by indigenous Australians. Although no one can determine its exact age, it’s speculated to have come about approximately 1,500 years ago. People from both Australia and all around the world still play the didgeridoo today.
Traditionally, the didgeridoo came about through a natural process, which included termites hollowing out the interior of live eucalyptus trees. Aborigines would then strip the bark and trim the ends, resulting in the finished product. Today the didgeridoo is made out of an assortment of materials, including bamboo wood, teak wood, and even synthetic materials such as PVC, glass, and fiberglass. Usually cylindrical or conical, the modern-day didgeridoo can measure anywhere from 3 to 10 ft. long, although they’re most often about 4 ft. long. Generally speaking, the longer the didgeridoo, the lower the pitch.
The didgeridoo is played by breathing into the instrument with continuously vibrating lips. This looped breathing pattern is known as circular breathing, wherein the player simultaneously breathes in through their nose and out through their mouth. By using this method, the player can sustain notes without stopping for an impressive amount of time (the current world record is 50 minutes of continuous playing!)
Traditionally, the didgeridoo was played during ceremonial dances. It’s interesting to note that it’s considered taboo for an Aborigine woman to play a didgeridoo. Today, it’s increasingly played for leisurely purposes in both Australia and around the world. It can be played solo or as an interesting accompaniment to group performances and more informal musical gatherings such as drum circles . Due to its combination of unique sound and versatility in a variety of musical styles, modern-day musical generes including celtic and ska have incorporated the didgeridoo.
There are many different ways to produce rhythms on the didgeridoo other than the basic drone (which entails puffing your cheeks and pushing your lips out, allowing them to vibrate, thus making a low-pitched buzzing sound). Similar to any other type of rhythm instrument (ie the djembe ) contrasting sounds are arranged together to create rhythm. These contrasting sounds can be affected by the tongue, lips, cheeks, and the belly. You can move your tongue by placing it behind your front teeth and abrubtly moving it downward to say, “ta-ta-ta-ta.” Shaping your lips is another way to produce various tones: You can mouth the vowels “a, e, i, o, u, y” while producing the drone, and you can also pinch your lips together as if you were whistling. You can speak into the didgeridoo for an added effect. You can use your cheeks by allowing them to puff in and out, and you can contract and expand your belly to affect the air flow and movmement.
Check out how this didgeridoo player uses a variety of contrasting rhythms to create this unique sound: